Research shows that the most successful couples do not have an absence of conflict but rather tend to manage the conflict that they do have in effective and healthy ways. However, even the most conscientious families can run into trouble from time to time with relationship conflict and parenting. During times of conflict within the couple relationship, there are several problems that can arise related to parenting. You will learn about these in depth in the next session. However, for now, it is important to realize that children are very much affected by a conflict between their parents.
So what effect does couple conflict have on children? Well, research has shown that marital conflict can have several negative effects on children. Some include:
- Psychological harm to children. For example, children may become fearful of their parents and/or of more conflict erupting, feel insecure about their family being a stable unit, or constantly tensed and worried about their parents. Children, especially young children, may also blame themselves for the conflict.
- Behavioral difficulties at home and/or school. Children in families with high levels of conflict between their parents often have more behavior problems at home and at school. For example, bullying and other violent behaviors may show up in these children.
- Relationship problems into adulthood. Children learn primarily through behavioral modeling and those who witness high levels of poorly managed conflict between their parents are more likely to use negative conflict strategies (e.g., dominance, intimidation, cruelty, disrespect) in their own relationships with friends and romantic partners.
Now, move on to the following section where we consider the main factors that determine treatment success.